Los Angeles Times and BBC staff receive death threats for reporting on flooding in China

The staff of the Los Angeles Times and the BBC received death threats for reporting on flooding in China’s Henan Province last week, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said.

The Beijing-based professional group of journalists tweeted that it was “concerned about the recent online and offline harassment of journalists covering devastating floods.” The province’s Communist Youth League has asked its 1.6 million social media followers to help locate a BBC reporter from Shanghai who was harassed online, the group said.

2 / In a particularly alarming incident, the Communist Youth League of Henan asked its 1.6 million followers on Chinese social media site Weibo to report the whereabouts of BBC Shanghai reporter Robin Brant , after he became the target of viral harassment online.

– Chinese Foreign Correspondents Club (@fccchina) July 27, 2021

Also a Los Angeles Times A reporter and another foreign reporter were recently surrounded by angry residents as they covered the floods in Zhengzhou and accused of “smearing China” and “spreading rumors”.

“China-based staff of the BBC, LA Times and others have received death threats and intimidating messages and calls,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said.

In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “The BBC has a long history of ideological prejudice against China.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below:

Foreign journalists covering the floods in central China were targeted last week by organizations affiliated with the ruling Communist Party of China. Above, rescuers paddle a flooded street on July 23 following heavy rains in Zhengzhou City.
Noah Celis / AFP via Getty Images

In six months, the Beijing Winter Games will open and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says the Olympics are all about sport. no policy allowed.

Covering ski races or figure skating finals should be painless; stay in the sports bubble and avoid trouble. But reporters from other countries who puncture the skin of public relations to explore other aspects of life in China, as they did in Japan during the Tokyo Olympics, may attract more than criticism.

They could face harassment and threats if the performances were seen by the government – and the increasingly nationalist public – as portraying China in a negative light.

“China demands full respect for its position on a number of issues,” Oriana Skylar Mastro, who studies security issues in China at Stanford University, told AP.

“It requires that of governments, but also of businesses, media and individuals,” she said in an email. “So, do I think China is going to go after anyone, including sports journalists during the Olympics, who deviates from the ‘acceptable’ scenario? Yes, I absolutely think so.”

China’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly criticized the “politicization of sport” and said any Olympic boycott was “doomed to failure.” He did not specifically address journalism during the Games.

The danger to journalists was evident last week when foreign reporters covering flooding in central China were targeted. The Communist Youth League, a branch of the Chinese Communist Party, has asked social media subscribers to locate and report a BBC reporter on a mission. This has extended to broader charges against foreign journalists for “slandering” China with coverage that could be viewed as critical rather than focusing on government rescue efforts.

The danger to journalists was evident last week when foreign reporters covering flooding in central China were targeted. Broad accusations have emerged against foreign journalists for “slandering” China with coverage that could be viewed as critical rather than focusing on government rescue efforts.

In a statement, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said that “the rhetoric of organizations affiliated with the ruling Chinese Communist Party directly endangers the physical safety of foreign journalists in China and impedes freedom of reporting.”

It came after China last year expelled more than a dozen American journalists working for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Beijing was the IOC’s unlikely choice for the 2022 Winter Olympics, a move made in 2015, mainly because European favorites like Oslo and Stockholm withdrew for financial or political reasons. The IOC ended up with only two candidates: Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Beijing won by four votes, 44-40. The choice has drawn strong criticism from human rights groups, which continue.

The IOC has declined several recent requests to move the Olympic Games to Beijing. China is accused by some foreign governments and researchers of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture on Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang, a region in the west of the country.

China has denied committing genocide against the Uyghur people, calling such accusations a “lie of the century.”

Last week, a vice president of Intel, one of the top 15 sponsors of the IOC, said he agreed with a US State Department assessment that China was committing genocide against the Uyghurs. and other minorities in Xinjiang. Other sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Procter & Gamble and Airbnb, appeared at a congressional hearing but did not answer most questions directly.

“It’s what I call the Olympics Catch-22 for illiberal regimes like China,” wrote Victor Cha, an Asian scholar at Georgetown University, in an email to AP. Cha studied sports policy in Asia and the 2008 Beijing Olympics in his book Beyond the final score. He also served from 2004 to 2007 in the Bush White House as director of Asian affairs on the National Security Council.

“They want all the glory and attention of hosting the world for the Winter Games, but they don’t want any of the inevitable criticism that comes with the media magnifying glass,” Cha said. “All hosts have to deal with this; see all of the COVID scrutiny ahead of Tokyo. The difference is how the hosts are handling it.”

The IOC says its goal is sport only, although it is a highly political body with an observer seat at the United Nations. IOC President Thomas Bach praised his efforts to bring the two Koreas together during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He also addressed world leaders in 2019 at a G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

“Our responsibility is to deliver the Games,” said Mark Adams, IOC spokesperson. “It is our responsibility. It is the responsibility of others – the United Nations, which have been very supportive of the Olympics, and governments to take care of this – and not for us.”

He added: “Given the diversity of participation in the Olympic Games, the IOC must remain neutral. It is clear.”

Adams was asked in an email if the IOC was prepared to “condemn China’s policy of interning Uyghurs and other largely Muslim minorities.” He did not answer the question and referred to earlier statements. “At all times, the IOC recognizes and defends human rights within the framework of its remit,” Adams wrote. “This includes the rights of journalists to cover the Olympic Games.”

The IOC included human rights requirements in the host city contract for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games several years ago, but it did not include these guidelines – the United Nations Guiding Principles on to business and human rights – for Beijing. Paris is the first Olympic Games to contain the standards, long advocated by human rights groups.

In countless interviews about China and its preparations for the Winter Olympics, Bach has not touched on the situation of the Uyghurs. He also did not say that it was a topic discussed at meetings of his board of directors.

The IOC, however, has been promoting press statements about Bach’s conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, although it has not disclosed the content.

China’s foreign minister, reacting to the BBC incident, essentially said the UK news agency had expected it.

“He has produced and disseminated false information, disseminated false information on issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the COVID-19 epidemic to attack and discredit China,” Zhao said.

“The BBC has been reporting on China with tinted glasses for a long time, which has tarnished its reputation in China,” Zhao added.

Yaqiu Wang, a Chinese researcher for Human Rights Watch who grew up near Shanghai, said that “foreign media had strong credibility five or six years ago.” But she said the increase in Chinese state control of information does not allow the average Chinese person to have a fair assessment of what the Western press is saying about China.

Wang said the mood was very different from 2008, when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics. Many outside China hoped the Olympics would improve human rights, and some Chinese saw it as a time of optimism. Controls on foreign media have been relaxed in the run-up to the Olympics, which some have interpreted as a slack on the political front after decades of “reform and opening up,” as China refers to its 40th anniversary. of economic reconfiguration.

“The hostility among the people is real, much more real than before,” Wang said. “That kind of hostility didn’t exist in 2008, but it does exist now. Among ordinary people, they know that to speak badly of the West or to be hostile, they know it’s in your best interests to do so. “

“If you go to a stadium, you’ll be fine if they feel like you’re covering something good,” Wang added. “But let’s say you talk to dissidents or someone who is the victim of some kind of abuse, you could be in a dangerous position.”

Journalists in China
Journalists film the National Ski Jumping Center, one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, during a media tour in Zhangjiakou on July 14.
Andy Wong / AP Photo

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